Category Archives: Science

Pathbreaking Environmental Initiatives

Over the past 30 years, arguably the most significant innovation in environmental policy has been the introduction of policy instruments that rely upon market forces to control pollution. You may know it as “cap-and-trade.” This policy debuted in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and has since spread from a focus on acid rain in the US to the development of carbon markets around the world. China is the most recent large emitter to announce a national carbon market.

This talk by Dan Dudek at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara reviews the major innovations of this policy tool, its migration around the world, and prospects for the future.

Dudek joined the Environmental Defense Fund in 1986. He has participated the development of several environmental initiatives including the Montreal Protocol, the US acid rain program, the Kyoto Protocol, and California’s AB-32. He has been an adviser and consultant to numerous governments and organizations. He has served on the Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board; US EPA advisory committees; and on two councils that personally advise China’s Premier on environmental issues. He launched EDF’s China Program in 1995 to develop programs for the control of both conventional and greenhouse gas emissions. His work now focuses on India’s air quality problems.

Watch From the Adirondacks to Beijing: One Economist’s Journey.

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Why Did Humans Start Eating Meat?

Humans have been hunter-gatherers for most of our existence as a species and hunting has long been seen as a key human adaptation, thought to have influenced our anatomy, physiology, and behavior, indeed, a force in our evolution as a species. CARTA brings experts from across the globe to explore evidence pertaining to understanding the origins of hominin hunting and where this understanding can lead future research.

Browse more programs in CARTA: The Role of Hunting in Anthropogeny.

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Sally Ride Forever!

When the United States Postal Service chose UC San Diego as the site to unveil its new Sally Ride Forever postage stamp, the UCSD community could not have been more thrilled. Ride, the first American woman in space, taught physics at UCSD after finishing her stellar run at NASA and then, through Sally Ride Science, inspired a new generation to embrace STEM. As seen in the Stamp Dedication Ceremony [uctv.tv/shows/33665] and the Women in Leadership [uctv.tv/shows/33160] discussion that followed, Dr. Ride’s fellow trailblazers Billie Jean King, Ellen Ochoa, Lynn Sherr and Condoleezza Rice, proudly honored the memory of their late friend.

Watch Women in Leadership Presented by Sally Ride Science at UC San Diego.

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Bring Back Mammoths

Remember Dolly the sheep? How in 1996 she made international news as the first cloned mammal? Now, imagine using those techniques to bring back extinct animals, such as the mammoth or the passenger pigeon. While the concept may no longer be science fiction, the costs and consequences of this research are still unknown. MacArthur Award recipient and evolutionary biologist Beth Shapiro of UC Santa Cruz discusses the scientific and ethical questions raised by what’s known as Ancient DNA research in this fascinating talk presented by the new Institute for Practical Ethics at UC San Diego.

Watch Can We, Should We, and Will We Bring Back Mammoths? with Beth Shapiro .

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Losing the Nobel Prize

When Alfred Nobel stipulated the creation of the Nobel Prize in 1895, the inventor of dynamite could hardly have guessed that the award – considered by many to be the world’s most prestigious honor – would often come at the expense of the very careers and the disciplines Nobel sought to promote. Per Nobel’s will the Prize is ostensibly awarded to those who “have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind,” but it has arguably fallen short of that commendable goal on several occasions.

In Losing the Nobel Prize, his provocative and incisive critique of the award, physicist and cosmologist Brian Keating addresses what he calls the Nobel’s “systematic biases,” noting that by its nature the Prize discourages communal efforts among scientists, and during its history has lauded such questionable pursuits as lobotomy and eugenics. Recipients have included Nazis and war criminals, but surprisingly few women. Upon reflection, perhaps not so surprising; Nobel’s will states that:

It is my express wish that in awarding the prizes no consideration whatever shall be given to the nationality of the candidates, so that the most worthy shall receive the prize, whether he be a Scandinavian or not. [Emphasis added]

Since its inception, only two women have been awarded the physics prize, and none in over fifty years.

Keating is uniquely equipped to offer a perspective on the Nobel Prize. He is the inventor of BICEP (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization), the most powerful cosmological telescope ever made, and co-leader of the team that conducted the BICEP2 experiments that lead to discovery of “the spark that ignited the Big Bang.” After much drama and debate that discovery was subsequently proven to be a cosmic mirage, but in the interim Keating found himself drawn into the headlong pursuit of the Nobel medal, encountering competitiveness, intrigue, and naked ambition along the way. The lessons Keating learned in losing the Nobel Prize serve as a cautionary tale about abandoning the collaborative spirit in pursuit of a near-unobtainable prize, but also as a prescription for radical, much-needed reform of the world’s most coveted award.

Following his talk Keating chats with David Brin, noted science fiction author and futurist, in a lively conversation about the nature of scientific enquiry, the merit of awarding scientific prizes, the importance of collaboration, the need for transparency, and the urgent need to improve communication between scientists, policy makers, and the general public. Above all, both men stress that those lessons learned by Keating and outlined in his book may ultimately prove to be more valuable than the prize itself.

Watch Losing the Nobel Prize with Brian Keating

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